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    • CommentAuthorjoshdahl
    • CommentTimeJun 14th 2011
     (9949.1)
    (cross posted from my comic-writing blog)

    Calling a spade a spade.

    It used to be the thing for comics creators to give black characters names with the word “black” in them.
    When white Clint Barton turned huge, he was just called “Goliath”, but when black Bill Foster gets the same power, he was “Black Goliath”.
    It is embarrassing for us to look back on now, but I think that hearts were in the right place.
    Since then, it has been a real no-no.

    So, in Rapid City comics, I have been letting race happen very naturally. When someone seems like a they should be a certain race, I make them that race. I feel like it has been working out pretty well. I have a nice mix.

    But, my book is mostly heroes. Not villains. Somehow, as a result, most of my villains have been white. So, now that I am writing a more villain centered story, that imbalance has become more obvious.

    So, as I make new characters for this story, I am faced with the prospect of adding my first “token” minorities.

    One character just really came together. An enlightened gang-banger, turned corrupted black-anarchist, turned super-villain tech-support! (trust me, that is the quick version… there is more to him than that)

    So, what would he call himself? What is the perfectly succinct symbol of his anti-establishment world-view? Of course… Black Flag!

    I just made a black character whose name starts with the word “black”. But it works and I think it fits the character, so I think it is ok.

    Also, I realize that the title of this post stupidly racist…. but I just could not resist the play on words.
    •  
      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeJun 14th 2011
     (9949.2)
    I kept starting and then laughing and then deleting what I had to post, so I'll just say this.

    If already in the development stage you're questioning the name you've given a character and are concerned about the implications of it, change the name.
  1.  (9949.3)
    Use your dilemma in the story - give him a scene where he mentions that he wanted to be called Black Flag but he worried it was racist.
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      CommentAuthorlgenius
    • CommentTimeJun 14th 2011
     (9949.4)
    When someone seems like a they should be a certain race, I make them that race.
    If your worried about kissing the PC police's collective asses shouldn't they just seem like a human.
  2.  (9949.5)
    It will probably make the reader stop and think what you are intending. If you do it without winking at the reader, it's going to probably make them ponder it more than if you do. Easiest/classiest way to wink is to have two other characters mention the name in a way that addresses how it can perceived but without necessarily tipping off how you would like it to be perceived. Do what you feel like either way.
  3.  (9949.6)
    I think the important thing is, if that's what the character would call himself then that is what he should call himself. As long as you're being true to the nature of the character, there you go.
  4.  (9949.7)

    But, my book is mostly heroes. Not villains. Somehow, as a result, most of my villains have been white. So, now that I am writing a more villain centered story, that imbalance has become more obvious.

    So, as I make new characters for this story, I am faced with the prospect of adding my first “token” minorities.

    One character just really came together. An enlightened gang-banger, turned corrupted black-anarchist, turned super-villain tech-support! (trust me, that is the quick version… there is more to him than that)


    Well I find the entire concept dodgy. I think at the very least you should follow Oldhat's suggestion, but really that entire character concept needs to be rethought to make the character more than a collection of stereotypes. It's well intentioned, I think, maybe, but the execution is weak, if not lazy, and a "wink" is still something that can be missed by the reader and doesn't solve the problematic character design you've already noticed.
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      CommentAuthorBeamish
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2011
     (9949.8)
    This seems like a mountain out of a molehill issues. I understand were you are at but you should spend less time worrying if people will dislike you because your black character's name starts with 'black' and more time on the story. If the tale is compelling enough no one is going to notice that one of your characters is or isn't Asian.
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      CommentAuthorFauxhammer
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2011
     (9949.9)
    Not to sound new-agey, but your characters will tell you who they are. If you start forcing it just to appease the readers, instead of drawing them in with characterization and good action, it'll show, and you'll be left with a political screed.

    Nobody wants to read a political screed. Characters made with care are what will draw people in. And if somebody's somehow still offended, listen to their criticism, but respond that you had to serve the story first, above all other considerations.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2011
     (9949.10)
    Use your dilemma in the story - give him a scene where he mentions that he wanted to be called Black Flag but he worried it was racist.


    That's known as 'hanging a lampshade on it'.

    I'd suggest something slightly different. Don't give the guy a stupid codename at all. Just let him use his real name. If the issue of a codename comes up, then maybe have the conversation about wanting to be called Black Flag, but worrying it was cliched, or something like that and then ignoring the issue.

    Although, is 'Black Flag' really a 'black' thing? Wouldn't 'Public Enemy' or 'S1W' or something like that be better, if you do want to go there and racially polarise it without using the 'Black *' cliche.
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      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2011
     (9949.11)
    I think that if you are even questioning it at this point, dump it. I know the attraction to Black Flag with all the punk/Rollins connections, but that will probably get lost on most readers and be seen as lazy naming.

    I think OddCult's suggestions are excellent for alternate sources for attaching the character to black activist movements without resorting to a cliche that may have some "wink wink" connotation to the comics community, but little else.

    I would also concur on having him use his own name if he had a great sounding last name like Sledge, Tower, Bridge, etc.